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Using intention to create competitive advantage.

Filed in Interview Series

Teresa Coles

As one who lives to help organizations align success and social good, Teresa has shaped purpose-driven brands at the firm for more than 20 years. She’s known for her ability to help clients artfully leverage organizational health, business strategy and brand marketing to their advantage. As co-founder of CreateAthon, she has led the program’s transition from a single-market event to a global service network that has delivered more than $24 million in pro bono marketing services to the nonprofit marketplace.

Mike Crapps

CEO, First Community Bank

The profile of the modern CEO bears little resemblance to that of our father’s generation. Driven by new business imperatives that necessitate more insightful approaches to leadership, the skills of the modern CEO have greatly evolved from the delegation and deputy-building skills long synonymous with a CEO. They’re leadership traits that are centered in purpose vs. profit. Humanity vs. human resources. Guidance vs. governance.

Enter the intentional — and fully present — CEO.

These are the leaders who understand in a world where product, service and innovation can quickly become a market commodity, organizational culture is the one thing that cannot be replicated: It is the new competitive advantage. Moreover, today’s CEOs know they must master three things to build a high-performance organization in this environment:

  1. Setting a vision
  2. Modeling the way
  3. Leading with emotional intelligence

I’ve asked Mike Crapps, CEO of First Community Bank, to lend a first-hand perspective to these truths. As one who has led a bank from start-up phase to multi-market locations to a billion-dollar enterprise, Mike has shaped the organization with great intentionality and attention to cultural detail. The result is a financial services provider centered in its purpose of helping small businesses grow, and a brand that reflects that promise through its business strategy and brand marketing.

Setting a Vision

Teresa Coles, Riggs Partners: We know an effective CEO must be the chief flag bearer for an organization’s vision. How did you articulate the vision of First Community Bank from the beginning?

Mike Crapps, First Community Bank: The original vision and today’s vision is the same: to focus our work on local businesses, local entrepreneurs and professional services. We do that by listening first, and listening well to the goals of our customers, and being thoughtful in our response to them with the financial services and counsel that will help them be successful, in whatever way they define success.

TC: How do you instill that vision today?

MC: Having a vision is worthless unless you communicate it. You have to talk about the vision over and over, and then some more. It’s only when you get to this kind of frequency that people actually begin to understand it and internalize it. I look at it this way: If it’s not my job as CEO to communicate the vision of the bank, then what am I here to do?

TC: Do people understand what success looks like within this vision? Is that measured qualitatively or quantitatively?

MC: We measure the pursuit of our vision in both ways. Quantitatively, it’s about three key numbers: ROA (return on assets) ROE (return on equity) and ER (efficiency ratio). Qualitatively, it’s all about our ability to understand the customer experience: to get continual feedback of how we serve our customers and ensure their expectations are more than met, from mortgage loans to major business investments.

TC: How do people come to understand their role in helping the bank work toward this vision?

MC: See that board over there? Those are all of the major operational metrics associated with each one of these numbers, and we paint a direct line of sight between everyone’s role in the organization to those numbers.

Modeling the Way

TC: People take many types of cues from their leader: visual, verbal, energy, body language, and others. What kind of practices do you put in place for yourself to help embody the ideals of FCB?   

MC: One of the things we continually reinforce is that every person matters, and it’s a practice that guides the way I look at how I interact with people. The way I conduct myself in a conversation in the hall matters. The way I greet someone at the grocery store, at church or football game matters. I firmly believe every interaction we have with people matters, and that moment can lead to an impression or judgement about the bank, either in that instant or in the future.

TC: What kinds of behaviors do you think CEOs or other top leaders often overlook that are important to an organization’s culture?

MC: If you’re emotionally aware as a leader, you’ll make it a practice to watch other leaders and learn from them. A good example is someone I’ve observed who has a real talent for facilitating feedback from a large group of community leaders — and listening well to diverse opinions — while still being able to arrive at a consensus and direction that people understand and feel good about. I really try to emulate that, and I let him know how much I admire his ability to be effective in that regard.

TC: What kinds of programs or activities do you have in place to help emerging leaders model the way?

MC: We have started a Leadership Institute that has been very effective in cultivating our next-gen leaders. We just graduated our first class of eight and we have another class starting now. It’s an 18-month personal growth and leadership curriculum that builds depth of leadership skills here, from learning how to develop and navigate critical decision-making process to understanding how to become more self-aware in how we relate to others. It’s a mix of formal curricula and informal, shared experiences. We’re really pleased with the response to the program, and the people who have gone through it have already been great ambassadors in helping others understand the value of it. It’s viewed as an honor to be selected, and we’re pleased to see people consider it that way.

TC: Leading with emotional intelligence is a leadership trait that’s getting a lot of attention these days. What does it mean to you?

MC: It’s simply not enough to be smart. Even in financial services, which can seem to be very left-brained, it takes knowing how to listen to other people, and to practice humility.  In fact, one of our values is excellence with humility – we believe in it that much.

TC: What are the benefits of leading with a high sense of self-awareness like this?

MC: At the highest level, emotional intelligence is the differentiator. Few people with a high IQ can succeed if they don’t have high EQ.

TC: Being an intentional leader is about helping people achieve greater significance in their work and in their lives.   

MC: We talk a lot about the importance of understanding our personal why – and that when we lead from that perspective, and own it, the how and the what will take care of itself. My personal why guides the way I look at my work every day – and If I live out my why every day, I will live a life of significance. That’s a lesson we’re really interested in helping more people understand.

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